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Justin Fields Has His Breakout Game (But Bears Just Aren’t Good Enough Elsewhere)

| November 1st, 2021


Pregame

Without Matt Nagy,

Bears try to save their season.

On number one’s back.


Quarter One

Deebo cannot catch.

Slye, one for two from distance.

Snoozer tied at three!

Additional points:

  • Soldier Field turf is an absolute embarrassment. I hate the Arlington Heights move but if the city can’t maintain grass, what’s the point?
  • Robert Quinn remains the team MVP.
  • Two big drive-killing penalties from James Daniels can’t happen. He’s supposed to be the team’s best offensive lineman.
  • Justin Fields looks far more comfortable running the offense when he’s not being harassed on every snap. (He looked a bit “happy feet” early but that’s settling down.)

Quarter Two

Fields rolls to his left,

His eyes see him, “The Outlaw”

Touchdown. Touchdown, Bears.

Additional points:

  • Ryan Pace has done a nice job building a rotation on the inside of the defensive line. Both Tonga and Blackson are players. But the team’s pass rush can’t hold up when there is an elite left tackle on Quinn and no Khalil Mack.
  • The drops have been a serious issue for the Niners all season. They have three critical ones in the first half of this game already.
  • Two ineligible men downfield in a half? I’m not sure I’ve seen that before.
  • Khalil Herbert is 100% a starting running back in this league. (And he’s going to keep the Bears from paying Montgomery.)
  • Third down and short and Lazor dials up a designed swing screen. Don’t take the ball out of the quarterback’s hands in spots like that. His legs are a serious weapon.
  • The Bears only have one corner and no pass rush, sans Mack. The bomb to Deebo to end the half isn’t surprising. What will be surprising is if the Niners don’t try a ton more of it in the second half.
  • It has become very apparent the Bears don’t have a top wide receiver. They have a pair of second options but they don’t have anyone capable of being the centerpiece of an offense. They need that if they want to play modern football.

Bears 13, Niners 9

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Niners at Bears Game Preview: Loser Goes Home, The (Beautiful) French Dispatch, Snoozer Coming?

| October 29th, 2021


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears.

But currently there are elements of the franchise I like far more than others.

Offensively, the team is an off-night at the Comedy Cellar: predictable, boring, bad. Every time you think things might improve, maybe THIS comic is the next big thing, you are drowned in a sea of discarded Louis C.K. material.

And it is very hard to like the them defensively without Khalil Mack and possibly without Robert Quinn. The entire defense is built on the availability and dominance of those two players. Without them, and without a pass rush, what are they?


Loser Goes Home Match?

The Bears are 3-4. They’ve been embarrassed in all four of their losses. Another loss sends them to 3-5, and leaves them needing a 6-2 finish to play in the tournament as the likely 7-seed. (And hey, that might earn them a return visit to Tampa!) Their head coach even has me calling for his firing. This is it. This game is the fork in the schedule.

The Niners are 2-4. They’ve lost four straight and their season is drifting away from them. They don’t know what they’re doing at quarterback. They’ve played about 28 running backs. Their head coach – who until this point has received zero criticism from anyone – is now being asked to defend a pretty poor NFL coaching record. A loss Sunday and it’s another wasted season.

There’s always a mathematical argument to keep a team alive but the loser of Sunday’s game at Soldier Field is dead. The Bears will not lose to a bad Niners team at home and then go on the road, in primetime, and beat the Steelers. (Especially without the ability to pressure Roethlisberger.) The Niners won’t be marching Jimmy G. out there much longer as the losses mount. And a move to Trey Lance, while inevitable, will announce the end of their 2021 prospects.

No, both of the teams are desperate to win Sunday. But more honestly, they are desperate not to lose.


HughesReviews: The French Dispatch

It is often hard to explain what one doesn’t like about a particular filmmaker but in the case of Wes Anderson, I have never found that to be the case. His films – at least the films since Rushmore – have always felt like artifice for artifice’s sake; polished, pretty, planned within an inch of their lives, while being devoid of all human life. They are admirable works, sure, in the same way a high-end French restaurant can deliver a plate of beautiful cuisine. But at some point you have to pick up your fork and eat the fucking thing.

The French Dispatch is a distinct, and powerful, departure. Because of the picture’s narrative framing – stories told by the brilliant writers of an expat periodical in the fictional village of Ennui, France – the visual devices that might have previously felt indulgent instead feel essential to the storytelling. Dispatch is, in my ways, the first perfect marriage of story and style for Anderson. And in that regard, it is arguably his best picture: a beautiful story, beautifully told.

And while Tilda Swinton’s toothy lecturer had me cackling in my seat as she announced the crowd she’d be taking her drink, the entire cast, even in truncated form, are delightful. Anderson lets his performers breathe in this film. He frames them beautifully, of course, but he lets them live in that frame. And we should all be thankful for that.

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Why I’m Not Writing a “How the Bears Beat the Niners” Column

| October 28th, 2021


Let me walk you behind the DBB curtain.

Every Monday, for about 5-6 hours, I watch the Short Cuts presentation of every NFL game played on Sunday through the digital Sunday Ticket package. If you have the time, this makes the exorbitant cost of that package somewhat worth it, as you find many of the national narratives surrounding these games are just wildly inaccurate. (It is amazing how many games are decided by big drops and even bigger penalties but we never hear about those things.)

During these sessions, I take specific notes on all future Bears opponents. I’m not trying to get an advanced degree in this stuff; these are aren’t thorough, multileveled notes. But if I see a team struggle to defend a certain concept Week One, I will note it. If the team struggles with that concept again Week Four, I note it again. Alas, when the Bears play this team, I suggest they involve this concept. It’s that simplistic.

But the Bears never do it.

Any of it.

And it’s exhausting.

Because I am not Nate Tice or Robert Mays or Brian Baldinger. I have made it a point over the years to avoid being too technical when writing about football. How much do people really want to read about sluggo routes and robber technique? Do you really want to read about why dagger concept is more effective against Cover 2 than Cover 1? I value the X and O writers tremendously; they make us all smarter. But I’m just far more interested in the big player, making the big play, in the big moment. That’s what makes me want to write about the sport. (That’s what really, in a sense, makes me wanna write about anything. I’m far more interested in Tevye battling against the crumbling of religious/cultural tradition than in learning how he supports his family selling milk and cheese to poor Russians. Mays would be giggling through his podcast, discussing Tevye’s wagon/mule overhead.)

What do the Bears need to do to beat the Niners?

They need to block them. They need to tackle them. They need to catch the football. They need to hit Garoppolo. The Bears are underdogs at home to a two-win mess of a team. They need to play like they’re embarrassed by that fact. If they do these things, no matter who their coach is, they’ll be 4-4 Sunday afternoon. If they don’t, their season is over.

Yes, I have moved on from Matt Nagy as the head coach of the Chicago Bears. (And hopefully George McCaskey will do the same soon.) The Bears are not going to out-scheme any remaining opponent on their schedule. But they can still outhustle and outwork them. They can still give their fans something to care about on Sunday. They can still win games despite the ineptitude of the fella on their sidelines.

So let’s see it. Because I’ve got a bunch of Steelers notes for next week and I’d like to use them.

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Super Bowl Preview: The Data Prediction

| January 29th, 2020

I’m very excited for this Super Bowl matchup between two of the best teams in the NFL. Here’s what I’ll be watching for on Sunday night.


When Kansas City Has the Ball

  • I can’t wait to see Patrick Mahomes vs. San Francisco’s defense. The NFL’s best QB against the NFL’s best front 7. How can you not love that?
  • San Francisco has played 4 games against the top 10 QBs in passer rating this year (Wilson 2x, Lamar Jackson, Drew Brees). 3 of the 4 averaged less than 7 yards per attempt, threw 2 or fewer TDs, and led their team to 27 or fewer points. San Francisco’s defense is really good.
  • The 4th was Drew Brees, who averaged 8.7 yards/attempt, threw 5 TD, and put up 46 points. What did Brees do differently? He got rid of the ball before he could get hit. His average time to throw was 2.45 seconds, which was faster than any QB in the NFL as a whole this year (the other 3 were all over 2.7 seconds). As a result, Brees didn’t get sacked. This meant that he had to throw the ball short, with his average completion traveling only 5.1 yards past the line of scrimmage. Instead, he relied on his pass catchers to pick up yards after the catch, and they responded with an average of 6.9 YAC.
  • Patrick Mahomes generally doesn’t get the ball out super fast; his average time to throw this year was 2.82 seconds, and it was 2.91 seconds in 2018. Yet he’s had 5 games in his career where the ball has come out in under 2.6 seconds, and his results there have been remarkable: 73% completion, 10.2 yards/attempt, 19 TD, 0 INT, and only 6 sacks on 198 dropbacks. His team has averaged 35 points per game in those contests too. If you want to get even pickier, he’s had 2 games getting the ball out in under 2.5 seconds: 79% completion, 11.5 yards/attempt, 9 TD, 0 INT, 1 sack. He’s capable of getting the ball out quickly and effectively, even if it’s not his preferred style.

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Data Responds: Bears vs. 49ers

| December 3rd, 2017

The Bears led for almost the entire game, but pretty much everybody watching the game knew what was coming when San Francisco got the ball back down 14-12 with just over 4 minutes to go. The 49ers methodically marched down the field and longtime Chicago kicker Robbie Gould drilled his 5th field goal of the day to send Chicago to their 5th straight loss.

Offense

  • Chicago’s offense came out on the first possession and ran the ball twice in a row out of heavy sets. Anybody who’s watched Chicago this year can already guess how that ended: with Chicago in 3rd and long. That led to a sack of QB Mitchell Trubisky for a nice quick three and out.
  • Speaking of running on first down, the Bears did it 11 times in 14 chances today. Only one of those runs went for more than 3 yards; most went for 0 or 1.
  • It looks like any confidence rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky earned from the coaching staff completely evaporated after a bad game last week. They finally opened things up two weeks ago, and the offense shockingly had their best game of the year. Now they’ve had back to back terrible weeks after reverting to horribly predictable play calling.

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FrontRowTickets.com Game Preview: Favored Bears With Perfect Opportunity to Reach .500

| December 4th, 2015

dabearsblog banner

Chicago Bears Schedule

THE GAME POEM

He dusts a trophy from his highest shelf each night

Reading a name no longer known

His hand moves slowly, left to right

Like brushing leaves off a tombstone of his own

THREE THOUGHTS ON THE 49ERS

  • Vance McDonald is developing into a solid tight end and has more catches the last two weeks with Blaine Gabbert under center (10) than in the rest of the season combined (9). The Bears have struggled, especially early, patrolling the middle of the field. They’ll need to be aware of McDonald all afternoon.
  • San Francisco is an atrocious road team. They have been outscored 176-71.
  • This team is just so damn boring to watch play offense on tape. They’re a worse version of the Chiefs, with everything being thrown underneath and no faith in their pass protections. They have the players to make a few big gains (Boldin, Smith, McDonald) but there’s no consistency from them…ever. This offense is taylor made for the Bears defensive strengths.

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Repost: Dismal Sunday Display Presents Opportunity for Santa Clara Salvation

| September 16th, 2014

levi

If the Bears had a rinky dink opponent on the schedule for Sunday (though I’m not sure those exist in the NFL any longer) there would be little they could do in Week Two to erase the disappointment of Week One. But they don’t. Instead they are traveling to Santa Clara, where they haven’t beaten the 49ers since the invention of the forward pass. They are opening a new stadium, in prime time, in front of one of the league’s rowdiest fan bases. They are playing the most difficult game, at least contextually speaking, on their schedule.

And if they win, week one is forgotten. If they win, the season is reborn. Hell, even if they play a terrific game and lose the conversation changes from the End is Nigh refrain currently singly somewhat proudly from the pages of the Chicago dailies to Bring on the Jets and the 2014 campaign!

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But You Told Me the Season Was Over: Bears Over Niners Rapid Fire Recap

| September 15th, 2014

Marshall 2

Just a spectacular, improbable victory for the Chicago Bears in San Francisco.

  • If Charles Tillman’s season is over, and his eyes certainly told that tale, I don’t want to discuss it. I have made it clear Tillman is my favorite modern Bear as both a football player and man. For his Bears career to end with successive season-ending injuries isn’t right. He deserves better.
  • But I’m pretty sure Kyle Fuller is the real deal. I can’t remember the last performance by a young Bears defender that elicited so much hope for the future.
  • You know who played well last night? Shea McClellin. Maybe it takes a few weeks to learn an entirely new position.
  • Chris Conte’s interception is the reason he’s so frustrating as a player. You can’t make that play if you’re not a superb athlete with football instincts.
  • Here’s something I am starting to think. Brandon Marshall is the second best offensive player in the history of the Chicago Bears. (This will be a full column midweek once I’ve thought through the idea.)
  • Hey look, the Bears just dropped another pass.
  • Hey look, Bears special teams just committed another penalty.
  • Time to give Chris Williams a look as return man. Senorise Perry may be headed down Micheal Spurlock way.
  • Jay Cutler’s numbers don’t tell the story of his game. He was excellent throughout.

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